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Hot on the heels of last week's EU platform work directive comes the first collective bargaining agreement in Spain's food delivery sector, and one of the most important so far in Europe. The two big Spanish unions, CCOO and UGT, finally signed on the the dotted line with Just Eat, the end of a negotiation which took a year and a half.

What's in the agreement? You can get more details in our report here, but to highlight a few key points: standard annual salary of €15,200, €8.50 hourly rate (minimum wage is €7.55), Collective Accident Insurance, 30 days paid holiday leave and provision of material resources like a mobile and a rucksack. All of these things are absolutely basic in most jobs, but have been anything but the norm in the gig economy. In that sense this is a good agreement, much better than the GMB's UK agreement with Uber, for instance, which does not include collective bargaining over pay. 

However, there is a significant drawback. That is, this agreement only applies to riders Just Eat hires directly, not to riders hired via sub-contractors. The Dutch company operates a mixed-model in Spain of direct hiring and sub-contracting, but refuses to say how much of each. Just Eat's Spanish CEO, Patrik Bergareche, would only say at a press conference to announce the agreement on Friday that "thousands" of Just Eat riders are hired directly in Spain. 

Without the figures we cannot know how many riders could benefit from this agreement, but more importantly there is a distinct danger of creating two classes of Just Eat riders in Spain: one with rights and liveable pay, and one without. Wherever sub-contracting appears, you can be pretty confident that worse terms and conditions will follow, since one of the main purposes of outsourcing practices for big companies is to avoid accountability (and legal liability) for working conditions and fragment worker organisation. An in-depth study of sub-contracting by the European Trade Union Institute concluded that it "is a risk management strategy: it allows (usually) large companies to separate power and profits, on one side, from risks and responsibilities, on the other side."

This is not just a problem in Spain. Sub-contracting was conspicuously absent from the EU Commission's platform work directive, leading to questions about whether platform workers' new rights to algorithmic information will apply to sub-contractors who do not actually control the algorithm. As the European Trade Union Confederation's secretary Ludovic Voet put it in an interview with GEP in October, "this would defeat the purpose of having this employment relationship, because the real employer would still not be obliged in that case to respect its obligations."

The platform workers' movement must be vigilant of the risk that the real progress that is being made is not undermined by digital labour platforms turning to sub-contractors to do their dirty work. 

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator


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Gig Economy news round-up

  • LONGEST GIG ECONOMY STRIKE IN UK HISTORY SPREADS: A strike of Sheffield Stuart Delivery couriers which started two weeks ago today is still going, and has spread to Sunderland, Chesterfield, Huddersfield and Blackpool. The workers are demanding a pay rise in response to Stuart's pay cut introduced earlier this month, with the average rate for a delivery falling from £4.50 to £3.40. Stuart delivers on behalf of Just Eat, which has a contract with McDonald's restaurants, and the pickets of the Sheffield strike has stopped deliveries from six McDonald's restaurants, shutting down one completely. Read the Gig Economy Project's report here.
  • JUST EAT RIDERS JOIN ITALIAN GENERAL STRIKE: Just Eat riders in the Cgil union in Italy mobilised on Thursday [16 December] as part of the the general strike called by the Cgil and UIL unions. The general strike was in response to the coalition Italian Government, lead by the ex-head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi, which has announced plans to reform pensions while cutting taxes for the better off. The riders had their own demands, chiefly to end precariousness through permanent contracts, tax benefits for those on low-incomes and decent pensions. They said they would mobilise again on 24 December if there was no improvement in the situation. Read more here
  • GLOVO FACES €50M FINE IN SPAIN: Glovo, Spain's largest food delivery company, is facing €30 million and €20 million fines in Barcelona and Madrid respectively, according to 'El Confidencial', which cites sources in the Labour Inspectorate of the Spanish Government which say the monster fines are coming for the company's breaches of labour rights in cases which involve a combined 3,800 riders. Glovo was fined €8.5 million for labour rights' breaches in Seville last month, and further court actions are expected to hit the company, which refuses to employ the majority of its riders despite the Rider's Law coming into force in August. Read more here.
  • BASQUE COURT CONDEMNS LAW-BREAKING PRIVATE HIRE FIRM: A Labour Court in Bilbao in the Basque Country, northern Spain, has condemned the private hire company 'Euskal Herria VTC' for "very serious infractions", after the company had refused to pay the salaries of drivers. The union UGT Euskadi had submitted numerous evidence of illegal actions on behalf of the employer, all of which the court has denounced. Euskal Herria VTC will now have to pay sanctions and compensation to the workers. Read more here
  • GLOVO TO PILOT ROBOT DELIVERIES IN 2022: The Barcelona headquartered food delivery company is set to make its first robot delivery in the city of Salamanca in 2022. The pilot will see two robots circulate at "pedestrian speed", according to the company, which said the delivery will be made "on the street, in front of the portal", with the customer informed in advance that their delivery will be made by a robot rather than a human. It comes after Madrid city council changed its rules in September to allow autonomous vehicles on the street. The robot delivery will be the first time a human has not been used in app-based food delivery in Spain. Read more here.
  • GORILLAS RE-STRUCTURES COMPANY TO AVOID A WORKS COUNCIL: Gorillas, the German super-fast delivery company, has re-structured its company, apparently in a new attempt to block the establishment of a works' council at the firm. Gorillas' 'riders' and 'pickers' have been outsourced to a separate company, Gorillas Operations GmbH & Co KG, while employees at head office in Berlin remain in Gorillas Technologies GmbH, which is being converted into a holding company based in Netherlands. Fragmentation of company structure is frequently criticised in Germany as a tactic to avoid 'co-determination', whereby workers vote for representatives through a works' council and have seats on the company board. A Berlin court decided in November that Gorillas' workers could proceed with a Works' Council election, which the company has sought to block for over a year, and is now pursuing an appeal against the verdict. Read more here.

Have we missed important news on the gig economy in Europe this week? E-mail Ben at [email protected] to help us improve our news round-up.

On GEP this week

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Worker Info Exchange: Managed by Bots - Data-driven exploitation in the gig economy

Summary of a new report by James Farrar and Cansu Safak of the Worker Info Exchange.

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Just Eat signs "pioneer" labour agreement with Spanish unions

Key details of the first collective bargaining agreement in Spain in the food delivery sector.

From around the web

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Europe is finally recognising that platform workers aren't self-employed'

Gig Economy Project co-ordinator Ben Wray writes in 'Jacobin' on the EU Commission's platform work directive.

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'Lausan', a Hong-kong based network of worker organisers, interviews the leaders of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) in the UK.

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The gig workers index: mixed emotions, dim prospects

'Rest of World' presents the results of a survey of 5,000 gig workers in 15 countries.

Get Involved

The Gig Economy Project is a media network for gig workers and we welcome contributions from workers, writers, academics, activists - anyone who wants to stand up for gig workers' rights.

If you would like to write for the site, discuss arranging an interview with GEP, or simply have information about developments in the gig economy in Europe you think we should be aware of, get in touch.

Contact project co-ordinator Ben Wray at [email protected] or send a direct message to the Twitter @project_gig.

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The Gig Economy Project is a Brave New Europe production. If you want to help GEP expand our work, visit BraveNewEurope.com to make a donation.

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